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Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

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Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby Josh&Historyland » September 2nd, 2013, 8:01 pm

It is generally well known what the Duke wore in Spain and at Waterloo.
From 1812 to 1814 The Duke of Wellington was known to wear, either a grey or blue frock coat, breeches, either white (or buckskin I think) his usual cocked hat with various national signs pinned to it, hessian boots some of his own design, but since he didn't like wearing gloves and he usually eschewed wearing them which he himslef said was a bad habit. As for weapons his taste was for the Memluke sabre which General officer's were allowed to wear in regulation dress, and he tended to stuff his saddle holsters with pens, maps, and notepaper, just as well as he was admittedly a poor shot. He never wore full dress unless on a full parade occasion, so it's a myth that he never wore it, but he had adapted a campaign dress which he preferred, one might say what someone might have worn if they were riding to hounds, essentially he was wearing this sort of "non uniform" uniform since he took command in Portugal in 1808. some adaptions were made depending on climate and promotions. In bad weather he put an oilskin over his hat and buttoned a cape on, which is what many have him wearing at Waterloo, and after he was made commander of the Spanish forces he took to wearing the sash of a Spanish General.

Inside this are a few questions I'm hoping some people might assist me in answering.

1: What did the different national cockades that he put in his hat look like and how we're they arranged?
2: What does the sash of a Spanish General look like?
3: What did Wellington wear at Waterloo, most paintings have him in his cloak others in the frock coat, some say he alternated, yet I believe there was some to do later on about the famous equestrian Lawrence and him loaning the artist the cloak he "wore" at Waterloo?

And as an interesting discussion point:
When did Wellington (Wellesley) decide to use this code of dress/what gave him the idea?
My own thought is that he decided to adopt the low key, impeccable look sometime before he took command of the Portugal expedition. As far as I know in India he conformed to regulation dress, he learned as much about soldiering in India as he ever would, so perhaps he learned that the uniforms were uncomfortable and took a commanders perogative (Marlborough and Wolfe did similar things) and improvised his own, after he was given command, but I've never heard of a proper explanation.

Doubtless the Duke would have looked at me like I was an insect and told me that he wore what he wore because it was the most suitable and effective clothes for the pursuit of his business, or something but what do all of you think,

Josh,
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Re: Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby Josh&Historyland » September 8th, 2013, 2:56 pm

I'm just going to re comment on this post to keep it visible, I'd really appreciate any info on what a Spanish General's sash looks like. And any info on the cockades in Wellingtons hat.

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Re: Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby Owen » September 9th, 2013, 7:57 am

Dear Josh,

There is a thread here which might be f interest - it discusses Wellington's dress and includes references to the cockades:

http://www.napoleon-series.org/cgi-bin/forum/archive2007_config.pl?md=read;id=72407

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Re: Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby Josh&Historyland » September 9th, 2013, 7:38 pm

Thanks Owen, most helpful.

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Re: Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » September 10th, 2013, 7:18 am

That's a very interesting link Owen, worth scrolling through.

What is the yellow thing on the side of Wellington's hat in Goya's portrait of him?
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Re: Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby jf42 » September 10th, 2013, 9:36 am

That is the strap attached to a button that customarily formed part of the attachment of the cockade to the cocked hat. In this portrait it seems to be a decorative item in its own right.

This Goya portrait presumably includes the Spanish sash.

The pompadour pink, sir, or the royal blue?

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Re: Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby jf42 » September 10th, 2013, 9:38 am

There was a long-standing tradition among British army officers, possibly fostered by years of colonial service in the Americas and India, of wearing regulation uniform as little as possible. There was also the honourable sport of baiting Adjutants and old Majors.

"The fashion of your dress must depend on that ordered in your corps, that is in direct opposition to it: for it would show a deplorable poverty of genius if you had not some of your own ideas in dress…Never wear your uniform in quarters if you can avoid it. A green or a brown coat shows you have other clothes beside your regimentals, and likewise that you have courage to disobey a standing order… at least mount a pair of black breeches, a round hat or something unregimental or unmilitary."

(TO THE YOUNG OFFICERS from Advice to Officers of the British Army, Anonymous, 1782)

Wellington himself later observed that in the 1790s an officer might take a Standing Order as seriously as he would an invitation to a ball. In the wake of the Holland debacle in 1795, the Duke of York in his new role as C-in-C had doggedly attempted to impose a Prussian-style order and conformity on the regiments, in matters of clothing as well as of drill and manoeuvre. This culminated in the-

Regulation relative to the cloathing & half-mounting of the Infantry and to the Inspection of the Cloathing of the Army in General


-issued at the War Office 20th May 1801.

In regulating the comprehensive uniform changes of the previous five years that had introduced, amongst other elements, the closed coatee, the cap- not forgetting the Regulation Feather- and pantaloons, this stated:

"XVIII Finally we declare it to be Our Intention, that all Colonels, Commanding Officers, or other Officer, who shall direct, or knowingly permit, any Alteration whatsoever to be made in any part of the cloathing, or Appointments, so that the same shall differ in the smallest degree from the patterns of the several Articles sealed by our Cloathing Board, and sent to the respective Regiments, or shall allow any Deviation from our existing Regulations for the Cloathing and Appointments of Our Forces shall be considered guilty of Disobedience of Orders, and shall be liable to such punishment for the same as by a General Court Martial shall be awarded."

The principle of rigid conformity and subordination declared in those stern words was quickly made redundant by the rigours of field service and when the war ended it was still was "More honour'd in the breach than the observance". Regiments continued blithely to assert their individual identities and flaunt their new-won (or newly invented) distinctions while the authorities at Horse Guards attempted periodically to impose discipline but made themselves ridiculous by regularly sanctioning absurd and expensive alterations to the regulation uniform.

We know Wellington wasn't much interested in the subject of uniform and only required that he could be able to distinguish between his own cavalry and that of the French. His choice of clothing was sober, practical and comfortable, befitting of an Regency gentleman, and as supremo he could do as he pleased. We only have to look at Picton's punctured hat to see that Wellington's generals followed suit and also wore what they chose.
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Re: Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » September 10th, 2013, 10:13 am

Thanks Jack - also for the added information about British military dress.

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Re: Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby jf42 » September 10th, 2013, 12:38 pm

Por nada.

I have just realised that in the Goya portrait I posted, looking at the ribbon holding the large cross on Wellington's breast, he is only wearing one sash which is mainly pink with a blue border. Medals and orders are not my area, so I can offer no further comment.
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Re: Wellington's "Non Uniform" uniform

Postby Josh&Historyland » September 13th, 2013, 7:00 pm

Thanks JF. Interesting points. What occurs to me is that Wellington disliked the Prussian school, and dismissed Sir Hudson Lowe at the beginning of the Waterloo campaign for constantly telling him how good the Prussian army was as compared to the British.

I was about to say that the Goya portrait does not seem to portray a Spanish General's sash as I have heard it described, IE it has gold in it, the sash he is wearing to my mind corresponds to his order of the Bath ribbon, but like I said I have never seen a Spanish General's sash so I need help.

And I agree that the strap button device on the cocked hat is I think something to do with either pinning the thing together or for holding the cockade. Now I have always thought that this would be where Wellington would have put his varying cockades, as he never used the long plume of regimental officers that would ordinarily fit around there (I think).

I was looking through Richard Holmes and he says that he was still wearing Scarlet in India, a tunic, no specifics one assumes of a regulation pattern but it could have just been plain, and pantaloons tucked into Hessian Boots. Placing his signature Appearence Definitly towards either Copenhagen or Vimiero.

As for orders and decorations The painting was altered after it was initially finished, to include the Order of the Golden Fleece and Military Gold Cross with three clasps. In addition to this I think he is also wearing Garter and Bath Stars and ribbons. I assume one of the stars is to do with one of his foreign honours.

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